Hal Holbrook, Emmy and Tony-Winning Actor Who Portrayed Mark Twain, Dies at 95


Emmy and Tony winner Hal Holbrook, an actor finest identified for his position as Mark Twain, whom he portrayed for many years in one-man reveals, died on Jan. 23. He was 95.

Holbrook’s private assistant, Joyce Cohen, confirmed his dying to the New York Times on Monday night time.

More from Variety

Holbrook performed the American novelist in a solo present known as “Mark Twain Tonight!” that he directed himself and for which he received the very best actor Tony in 1966. He returned to Broadway with the present in 1977 and 2005 and appeared in it greater than 2,200 occasions (as of 2010) in legit venues throughout the nation. He started performing the present in 1954.

He acquired an Emmy nomination for a TV adaptation of “Mark Twain Tonight!” in 1967, the primary of a number of noms. He received 4 Emmy Awards.

He additionally drew an Oscar nomination for supporting actor for his position within the movie “Into the Wild” in 2008. At the time of the nomination, the 82-year-old Holbrook was the oldest performer to ever obtain such recognition.

Holbrook’s craggy voice and look lent itself to historic portrayals and different components that required gravitas. Indeed, he additionally performed Abraham Lincoln, successful an Emmy in 1976 for the NBC miniseries “Lincoln” and reprising the position within the ABC miniseries “North and South” in 1985 and its sequel the next yr. Moreover he received his first Emmy, in 1970, for his position because the title character within the transient however extremely regarded collection “The Bold Ones: The Senator.” He performed the commander-in-chief in 1980 movie “The Kidnapping of the President”; a senior decide tempted into vigilante justice in “The Star Chamber”; and John Adams within the 1984 miniseries “George Washington.” Much later, he performed the assistant secretary of state on a few episodes of “The West Wing,” and most lately he performed a conservative Republican congressman in Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” and a decide within the 2013 historic drama “Savannah.”

In 1978 he was nominated for an Emmy for his position in a TV adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” because the Stage Manager, one other position with which he’s strongly related.

Earlier, he drew an Emmy nomination for a famous position as a person who reveals his homosexuality to his son, performed by Martin Sheen, within the ahead-of-its-time ABC 1972 telepic “That Certain Summer.”

He recurred on the late ’80s Linda Bloodworth sitcom “Designing Women” because the boyfriend to his real-life spouse, Dixie Carter; his character on that present was killed off so he may take one of many starring roles in one other CBS-Bloodworth effort, the Burt Reynolds starrer “Evening Shade,” through which he performed Reynolds’ irascible father-in-law. He appeared in 79 episodes of the present from 1990-94.

Holbrook additionally directed 4 episodes of “Designing Women.”

In 2006 the actor guested on “The Sopranos” as a terminally in poor health affected person who imparts some knowledge to the hospitalized Tony Soprano.

Holbrook’s inimitable voice, filled with a world-weary integrity, was inevitably enticing to documentary makers and have movie administrators requiring narration or voiceover. He narrated docus corresponding to “The Might Mississippi” and “The Cultivated Life: Thomas Jefferson and Wine” and films together with 2011’s “Water for Elephants.” He received an Emmy in 1989 for narrating the “Alaska” phase of the “Portrait of America” documentary collection.

The actor made a deep impression on the bigscreen as properly, taking part in Deep Throat in “All the President’s Men” — it was he who intoned the well-known phrases “Follow the money!”; a power-mad police lieutenant within the Dirty Harry film “Magnum Force”; and, in a short and underappreciated efficiency, a stockbroker warning of the hazards of moral lapses in Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street.”

Harold Rowe “Hal” Holbrook, Jr. was born in Cleveland; his mom was a vaudeville dancer. He was raised in South Weymouth, Mass., and graduated from Ohio’s Denison U., the place an honors venture about Twain led him to develop “Mark Twain Tonight.” Serving within the Army in WWII, Holbrook was stationed in Newfoundland, the place he carried out in theater productions together with the play “Madam Precious.”

Ed Sullivan noticed him carry out “Mark Twain Tonight” and gave the younger thesp his first nationwide publicity on his tv present in February 1956.

Holbrook was a member of summer season inventory legit troupe the Valley Players, based mostly in Holyoke, Mass., and opened its 1957 season with a perf of “Mark Twain Tonight.” The State Dept. despatched him on a tour of Europe that included appearances behind the Iron Curtain, and Holbrook first performed the position Off Broadway in 1959. Columbia Records recorded an album of excerpts from the present.

On Broadway, Holbrook performed the position of the Major within the unique manufacturing of Arthur Miller’s “Incident at Vichy” in 1964. In 1968 he was one of many replacements for Richard Kiley within the unique Broadway manufacturing of “Man of La Mancha” regardless of restricted capability as a singer.

As Holbrook approached his mid-80s, he remained a busy actor, together with multi-episode appearances on FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” and NBC’s “The Event.” In 2011 he was additionally in an impartial movie, the thriller “Good Day for It,” in whose conception he was intimately concerned, and he appeared as a science trainer who is aware of the reality in Gus Van Sant’s anti-fracking movie “Promised Land.”

Holbrook’s memoir “Harold: The Boy Who Became Mark Twain” was printed in September 2011.

In 2014, Holbrook was the topic of the documentary “Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey,” directed by Scott Teems, which premiered on the Los Angeles Film Festival and depicted Holbrook’s profession portraying Twain. Holbrook appeared as Red Hudmore on the ultimate season of “Bones” in 2017, and appeared in an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Hawaii Five-0” that very same yr. In September 2017, Holbrook introduced his retirement from “Mark Twain Tonight.”

Holbrook was married thrice. He and Carter had been married in 1984 and remained collectively till her dying in 2010.

He is survived by his three kids and two stepdaughters, in addition to two grandchildren and two step-grandchildren.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the newest information, comply with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Originally printed